For the fifth season in a row the Wichita Wingnuts are division championship, and this time they did it in the most ironic of manners. After struggling to find their offensive groove most of the season, the club hammered the Grand Prairie AirHogs for 21-runs on 17-hits and got six shutout innings from Tim Brown to become South Division Champions in the American Association.
Blake Oliver started for the AirHogs and recorded a 1-2-3 first inning, but then all hell broke loose. The Wingnuts scored five runs in each of the next four innings, a club record for consecutive five-run innings, and never looked back.
In the second inning the Wingnuts loaded the bases on a hit and two walks. A hit by pitch to Leo Vargas brought home Andy LaRoche to make it 1-0, and Taylor Smart followed with a three-run triple that scored T.J. Mitteldstaedt, Harrison Kain and Vargas to make it 4-0. Nick Van Stratten followed with a single to bring home Smart to make it a five-run lead.
In the third the Wingnuts loaded the bases again, courtesy of two singles and a walk. Van Stratten brought two of those runs home with a single that plated Brent Dean and Vargas, and Brent Clevlen cleared the bases with a three-run double that scored Van Stratten, Smart and Taylor Oldham.
Up 10-0, the onslaught continued into the fourth inning. Mittelstaedt led off the inning with his 16th home run of the season. The next three batters reached to load the bases again, and a fielder’s choice by Smart scored Kain to make it 12-0. A hit by pitch of Van Stratten reloaded the bases and Oldham’s double plated Vargas and Smart. LaRoche’s ground out scored the last run of the inning.
In the fifth the Wingnuts loaded the bases again (that sure sounds familiar) with one out, and Van Stratten cleared them with a triple. Oldham grounded out to score Van Stratten, and Clevlen followed with a home run, his first since rejoining the team. That was the 20th run of the game for the Wichita Wingnuts.
While the offense was putting on a show, Tim Brown was pitching like the true master that he is. His only real trouble came in the fifth when the first two hitters of the inning reached on singles. Brown then struck out the next two on just seven pitches, before allowing a single to load them up. He then blew away Brian Frazier, striking out the side to end the threat.
Brown (10-2) left after 6 innings, allowing 6 hits and a walk, with 8 strikeouts in his final start before taking the ball in Game 3 of the playoffs. Brown’s 10 wins are the second consecutive season of him winning at least 10 for the Wingnuts, and moves his overall record with the club to 20-6.
Each team scored a run in the seventh to conclude the 21-1 contest. Every Wichita Wingnuts hitter had at least one RBI, and all but one had an RBI and a hit. The 21-runs was a club record, as was the 20-run margin of victory.
Van Stratten went 3-4 with 3 runs and 6 RBI. He also walked and was hit by a pitch. Clevlen was 3-5 with a run and 4 RBI and Smart was 3-5 with 5 runs scored and 4 RBI. Vargas also scored 4 runs, despite the fact that he did not have a hit. He walked 3 times and drove in a run.
With two games left in the season the Wingnuts will face either the Joplin Blasters or the Laredo Lemurs in the first round of the playoffs. Joplin trails Laredo by one game.
By Robert Pannier